Review: Star Wars Rogue Squadron III Rebel Strike
Posted 21 Oct 2003 at 13:13 by Tim
Factor 5 is back with its world famous Star Wars series: Rogue Squadron. You probably remember the first game in the series back from the good ol' Nintendo 64 days. And the second game is still one of the best looking and also best selling title for the GameCube to date. Factor 5 decided it wanted to go even a step further with Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike.
When the developers started designing Rebel Strike, they decided that it had to become one of the next-generation GameCube games. This means that the game graphically would have to look twice as good as the previous games in the series. Of course, this was an enormous challenge, because the second part in the Rogue Squadron series was already quite stunning, and as far as we knew already required every single bit of power hidden in Nintendo Cube. Was Factor 5's goal for Rebel Strike realistic?
To be able to achieve the required graphical improvement Factor 5 had to chuck its Rogue Squadron II game engine and build a complete new one from scratch. The development of the new game engine alone took 9 months. This was quite an investment as the complete development of Rogue Squadron II took 9 months including the development of the game engine. However, the hard work paid off. The new game engine even uses techniques that Factor 5 thought would be too advanced to use with the current console cycle. Believe it or not, Rebel Strike does look a lot better than its predecessor.
The landscapes have improved a lot and are more detailed and realistic. Factor 5 did not only upgrade the graphics for the sightseeing when flying over in your X-Wing though. The landscapes also needed an upgrade because players can now control ground vehicles, such as the AT-ST and Speeder Bike. Some levels you even have to play through on foot, with only your light-saber or blaster to defend you with. More will follow on this later.
Not only the graphics have improved a lot, but also the sound guys have done a better job. The music and sound effects are of higher quality, and while playing Rebel Strike you now feel even more part of the game than in Rogue Leader - the level of realism has increased definitely.
Factor 5 had to put a lot more energy in the sound effects of Rebel Strike thanks to the new ground levels. The amount of sound effects has probably tripled and thus took a lot longer to make. Nonetheless, the quality increased, which is quite amazing. No wonder this game took so long to develop!
The player can choose to play as the famous Luke Skywalker or his sidekick Wedge Antilles. When you take on the adventure as Luke, you play the storyline taken directly out of the movie. You will have to attack the Death Star, battle in the snow on Hoth, etc. When playing the game as Wedge, you will be confronted with an entirely new storyline parallel to the movie storyline. In this new storyline you will have to research a mysterious research facility run by the Empire and destroy a Super Star Destroyer, among many other things.
Air levels make up 60 percent of the single player mode. These have been put together similar to the ones in the other Rogue Squadron games, except for smoother controls and improved Artificial Intelligence. The difference most noticeable is the improvement in the A.I.. The Imperials don't fly around headless without knowing what to do anymore. In fact, they now react to your actions and think twice before throwing their Tie-Fighter into your line of fire. Of course, our good old trusted X-Wing, Y-Wing, A-Wing and Han Solo's Millennium Falcon are all present again.
Ground levels make up the other 40 percent of the single player mode. Parts have to completed on foot and other parts using ground vehicles. The racing through the woods and the marching around with your AT-ST has been thought out well. In most ground levels players have to first fight their way through a bit with a vehicle, and then continue on foot to blow up a gigantic AT-AT by hand for example. Unfortunately, the levels on foot aren't all that good. More on that later when we discuss the playability.
Besides the single player mode Factor 5 has now for the first time implemented a multiplayer mode in the Rogue Squadron series. The game features cooperative and versus multiplayer modes.
When buying Rebel Strike you actually get two games for the price of one because in the cooperative mode you can play all the levels from Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader together with a friend. Also very special is the split screen mode which runs at almost the exact frame rate as in the single player mode of the original game. The graphics therefore look almost identical.
The versus mode contains in itself four different sub-modes. You can fight your buddies one-on-one in the 'dogfight' mode. In this mode, both players can choose any craft they like, including all the evil Imperial craft. Then there is the 'rampage' mode in which the goal is to destroy as many things as possible. The player with the highest score wins. The third mode is 'tag and defend'. Here you have to take over as many bases as possible by destroying them. And you will have to protect them from your opponent who will try and take them from you, as the player with the most bases wins at the end of the game. Finally, there also is the 'special' mode. This mode features different sorts of mission including a Speeder Bike race and a race through the Death Star trench. In all, a complete new Star Wars experience awaits you!
The air levels are pretty much put together the same way as in Rogue Leader. The controls are the same as well as the craft. However, I noticed one difference. The manoeuvring goes smoother which helps a lot when chasing the Tie-Fighters around. You will know what I mean when you pop in your Rogue Leader copy after having played Rebel Strike the entire afternoon.
Unfortunately, this game is not as playable all the time. The single player levels in which you have barge into your enemy by foot look amazingly good, but play extremely poorly. First of all your camera does not always work with you, which makes it hard sometimes to shoot your enemy. But on top of that the game uses a terrible targeting system. In order to be able to shoot your enemy you have to get a lock on him with your weapon. However, your weapons do not lock in until you are three meters away from your enemy, which is unrealistic and annoying at the same time.
Also a letdown are two specific levels in the game that the player has to play through completely on foot: the level in which Yoda trains you to become a Jedi and the level which takes place over the Sarlac Pitt. The Sarlac Pitt is one of the last levels in the game but takes less than a minute to complete. You have to jump from one ship to another four times and that is about it. The Yoda level takes a bit longer to complete but really is only a simple side-scrolling level in which you have to jump on wood logs and stones to get past cliffs and water. I think Factor 5 wanted too much in this game and only later realised they could only do so much. It would have been better if they'd left these levels out of the final build.
The single player mode of Rebel Strike consists out of more than 17 levels and will definitely keep your busy for a while, even though some levels are somewhat short. But because some levels must be unlocked with points it might take you a while to get to all of them. These points aren't always easy to get by. The multiplayer mode also guarantees hours of fun as it is quite extended with the coöperative and versus modes.
Also, whilst completing the game the player unlocks bonus material worth fighting the Imperials for. The bonus material includes two fully playable Acrade Star Wars games, a the making of documentary, audio commentary, and more!
Sure this game lacks a bit when it comes to the foot levels but the other single player levels and multiplayer modes will make you overlook the issue. It still is Star Wars we are talking about, and the game definitely gives you the Star Wars feeling whilst playing. It is a great sequel to Rogue Leader and surpasses it in the number of game levels/modes, graphics, and sound. If you liked the other Rogue Squadron games, you must get this game now. And if you haven't touched one of them yet, the time has now come for you to try and learn to master the Force. It is just too fun to miss!
N-Europe Final Verdict
Rebel Strike is a magnificent sequel of a great game!
Foot level playability